SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (PIX11) – It’s October in Seaside Heights. Locals are the only souls on the boardwalk enjoying the peace of the ocean’s waves and the salty air. The scene is starkly different today from one decade ago.

“You know, I’ve been through so many hurricanes over the years that I really thought it was not going to be anything,” said Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, who had hoped the storm would go out to sea. Instead, his town was a direct hit.

“I guess we were destined,” said Boyd. “Somebody pushed that storm our way. Maybe it was the good lord, I don’t know.”

There were billions of dollars in damage, dozens of homes destroyed, and the shore town’s iconic boardwalk was wiped off of the map into the Atlantic Ocean.

“It was sad,” said Vinny Scuzzese. “I’ve looked at it for 32 years. It was horrible.”

Scuzzese is the president of Sea Blue Amusements, a company behind the boardwalk games families have enjoyed for generations.

“We couldn’t open up until Memorial Day weekend that year,” said Scuzzese, “so we lost seven months.”

From businesses to homes, the storm forced many out of Seaside Heights for good.

“A catastrophe happens, it takes a minimum of ten years to get back on your feet,” said Boyd. “They’re still not back on their feet in the 10th ward in New Orleans, and how many years ago was that?”

The build back was painful, but progress was being made. Just when all the pieces seemed to come together, everything fell apart, again.

“I was actually patrolling, just checking on something,” said Boyd. “I looked up into the sky and I saw that black smoke.”

Almost a year after the storm, a massive fire consumed the newly-rebuilt boardwalk and dozens of businesses. Officials ruled it an accident – sparked by a faulty wire.

“I lost three stands in the fire,” said Scuzzese, who was able to built it all back again. In fact, he says the last three years, even during a pandemic, have been his best years ever. “I’m a pretty lucky person. Thank God,” said Scuzzese.

“There’s great people that live in this town and this town is seeing a surge right now that we’ve never seen before,” said Boyd, “so we have light at the end of the tunnel.”

Just ask Ralph Rocco, who’s been coming to this boardwalk since 1950.

“Evidently it’s being run right because it is coming back,” said Rocco. “It’s that simple.”

A decade later, New Jersey proves it is still stronger than the storm.